Women In Automotive: Pathways to Promotion

Pathways to Promotion

Women In Automotive’s Audrey McKinley shares how saying “yes” to opportunities propelled her career in automotive.

Had you told me 32 years ago that I would be the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company, I probably would have just smiled at you. I have always striven to become just that, but that option seemed too far-fetched for me to achieve. The journey I chose was challenging and lonely but looking back today was worth it and I would do it all over again. 

I would like to share with you my Pathways to Promotion story, starting when I received my first opportunity for promotion in the early 1990s. I was a receptionist at a Nissan dealership, and one evening my general sales manager asked me if I could have any job in the dealership what would it be? “Your job!” I answered. The next week I was presented an opportunity to transfer to the largest Toyota dealership in the country. I had no idea what that meant that day. I remember sitting in the general manager’s office as he was making me an offer to become a finance manager in one year if I would first begin as the contract administrator. With no hesitation, I said yes to $15 an hour and driving 40 miles each way in the infamous Los Angeles traffic. My job was to assist the finance director, package the deals, create heat sheets and learn F&I over a year’s span. 

During that time, I would master the art of F&I banking and sales as well as overcoming objections. Becoming a finance manager was my only desire, and one year later I did so. 

Taking a chance on me was a risk for the dealership, so rather than asking for it all, I found my way to the role by taking all the deals no one wanted — the cash deals. Talk about seizing the opportunity! This became the pattern I would follow for one promotion after another. Within seven years, I would learn all the positions within the retail automotive space: finance, sales, internet, special finance and management. 

One takeaway I have found useful in my career has been serving others. As I would watch the managers struggle at the tower trying to multitask the deals and put the packages together for F&I, I made it a point to always be at the manager’s desk making sure they had the confidence to hand me an unfinished deal so that I could help them get it to the finish line. I soon became their best ally! I would find that most of the deals would have opportunities to increase profitability for the dealership and myself. Staying grateful was my key to camaraderie and finding mentors who would open doors for me in business. I knew I was a unicorn and was swimming uphill, yet I focused on what I could control and allowed the rest to unfold in time. 

Years later, I left retail for the vendor side. During these years I mastered new roles in the same manner. The key for me was to always ask questions and be determined to be the expert in my field. 

By destiny, I would once again find myself working with the same man who gave me an opportunity 30 years prior. He would have a similar conversation with me about my career, knowledge and timing. This time, he would not offer me a job, but rather a gift to mentor me in hopes I would create my own empire. Just as I was faced with the opportunity back then, I considered all options. Saying “yes” was my decision to the next pathway to promotion. I had no idea that saying “yes” this time would become my land of milk and honey. 

I want to leave you with three lessons to learn from my own pathways to promotion: 
• Seize the opportunity.
• Serve others.
• Be the expert.

These three tenets follow my lifelong journey. Today I teach others this process that propels them in all areas of success for their personal and business life. 

Please join me at the Women In Automotive Conference on June 22-24, 2023, in Dallas, where we will have a session with the WomenPowered Mentoring program. Come meet or become the next mentor. I will also be speaking and signing my new book “Pathway to The Land of Milk and Honey.”

For more information, email [email protected] or visit www.womeninautomotive.com.

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